Sunday, 12 October 2008

Ladies who power lunch

To mark the publication of its 'World's 100 Most Powerful Women ' list for 2008, Fortune magazine hosted a lunch for 50 women from the worlds of business, finance and politics in the City of London last week. Inexplicably invited to the party, I found myself seated next to the host for the event, the dynamic, articulate and funny Ann Moore, Chairman and CEO of the world's largest magazine company, Time Inc.

It quickly became evident that despite a belief that there is still much to be done to get more women at the top, Fortune magazine had managed to gather together an impressive group in one room. Conversation took off fast and furious around our table, reflecting the many areas in which women have become influential. The Right Hon Patricia Hewitt MP, (one time Minister for Trade and industry and now non executive director of BT) shared recollections with Dame Judith Mayhew-Jonas (first woman to run the City of London, chair of the Royal Opera House and now tasked with the transformation of London's West End) of their trade mission to India.

Other table companions included Jodi Birkett, who at 32 is the youngest ever corporate finance partner at Deloitte - and the oldest member of her veteran's rugby team (she plays hooker) - and Susan Payne, who set up her own asset management company Emergent in 1996 and heads the London chapter of 85 Broads, the world’s biggest professional women’s network. Dona Roche-Tarry, holder of top level posts at BT before becoming Head of HR at Barclays Commercial is now partner of international executive search firm CT Partners specialising in finding the right person for roles on the board.

Anya Hindmarch, the 'Handbag Queen' who combines running her £20m international business with bringing up five children was the eighth guest at our table. Ann Moore delightedly produced her Hindmarch purse and Patricia Hewitt and Judith Mayhew-Jonas waxed lyrical about the Hindmarch bag given to first class travellers on British Airways. "Much better than the terrible plastic thing with a rubber band around it from Qantas, said Australian born Hewitt, clearly voting for her adoptive country when it comes to handbags. Which highlighted another interesting factor - our table boasted an Australian, a New Zealander, a Canadian, two Americans and three Brits.

But the dominant topic for the lunch was the tumultous events in the world economy. One of the most worrying factors was not only the ability but the physical wellbeing of the people dealing with the global financial meltdown, said Ann Moore. "They are all suffering from severe sleep deprivation, " she said, "which must impact on their ability to make rational decisions."

In conversation over coffee with co-host Stephanie Mehta, Global Editor of Fortune, Ann Moore told guests that to survive what is going to be a severe downturn, you must take care of your health and manage stress levels, despite the pressure, she advised. And when it comes to more women succeeding in business, employers need to recognise that people have lives outside work and women should help each other with mentoring and support.

But this is the comment that really convinced me, a one-time journalist who set up her own marketing consultancy specialising in engineering and construction, that Ann Moore was definitely my new best friend.

"We really don’t need any more bankers," she said, "What the world needs now are more engineers, journalists, marketers and entrepreneurs."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The 100 most powerful women couldn't have done it without the help of women mentoring to them. Congrats to these women and for the people who supported them in it!